Austin, Texas September 27, 2009 Volume 11, Issue 5
Stop Me When You Can Take No More Reformation Sunday, October 25, All Saints’ Day, November 1, the end of the Church Year (November 8, 15, & 22) and the beginning too (November 29), and on top of that a Communion Service of Thanksgiving (November 25th)! I’m just going to burst with all the grace, mercy, and peace the Lord is sending our way these next two months in Divine Service.
But wait there’s more! Every Sunday a verse by verse presentation of Holy Writ and Divine Doctrine. I’ve always told one of my children, who is here early to make coffee for the Sunday morning Bible class, that I just know one day we’ll have to get us a velvet rope to control the crowds clamoring to get in to hear the Good News.
And Now for the Lighter Side There is a divine side to the Church and there is a social side. In contradistinction from my 3 earlier parishes, I have not started that many social things. Not that I think they are wrong, I just don’t think this is what I’m called to do. For this reason, when we rewrote our Constitution and Bylaws, I had them create a Social Activities Board.
Bylaw 7, Section 2 says this:
The Board of Social Activities
“The basic objectives of the Board of Social Activities are to see to it that an adequate number and variety of activities are sponsored by the Congregation to afford God’s people the opportunity to gather for social reasons. Such activities may include but are not limited to dinners, parties, sight seeing trips, sporting events, etc.
“The Board shall have three men elected from the voting membership by the Voters Assembly including the elected chairman. In addition, two other members of the Congregation on the active membership roster may be appointed by the President.
“The Board shall present to the September Voters Assembly a schedule of proposed activities for the following fiscal year. This shall also be published in the newsletter.
“The Board shall submit an annual budget request to the Treasurer.”
The Board has met and planned a Social Activities Calendar from September to September. I’ve published it in this newsletter.
Look it over. See what you would like to particpate in. If you have suggestions for other things, the chair of that Board has his email at the bottom.
I don’t know about you but I’m busting. It just couldn’t get
any better than what is going on here in October and November unless of course you’re talking about Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and Lent come Dembember, January, and February. Break out the velet ropes.
2009-2010 Trinity Social
Calendar October 2009
4 Sunday- Church Dinner (Norman)
10 Saturday- Group Trip to the Renaissance Festival
25 Sunday- Reformation Dinner (Ike) November 2009
8 Sunday- Wurst Fest. We’ll go after church and eat lunch there.
28 Saturday- Decorate for Christmas, followed by movie, pizza December 2009
2,9,16 Wednesday- Dinner be fore Advent service
16 Wednesday- Dinner beforehand (youth have been volenteered). Followed by Cookie Exchange and Egg Nog Social.
20 Sunday- Bus Caroling, Chili Supper. January 2010
6 Wednesday- Epiphany dinner (Ike). Undecorated church after the service and before the dinner.
7 Sunday- Church Dinner (Norman)
10 Wednesday- Movie night at Alamo Draft House, ~ 7 pm. March 2010
10 Thursday- Blue Bill Factory Tour. Leave by 10am, people pitch in $ to rent van. July 2010
18 Sunday- Bowling August 2010
1-5 Sunday- Thursday- Galveston Trip Hear ye, hear ye!
Let’s go to the
Festival! Saturday, October 10
15 Reasons to Go:
Reproduction of the Guttenberg Press
Hear a Carillon played
Feasting & Spirits! (Translation: Beer and Turkey Legs)
Artisans, Crafts, and Games
Spend time with friends!
We’ll leave from church at 9:00am and return after dusk.
The opening weekend tickets are discounted: $12 for adults and $6 for children. Deadline to order discounted tickets is September 27 so sign up fast on the sign-up sheet at church.
After that you can still go with us but pay $23 at the gate.
This will be fun! If you have any questions, please contact Derek Kurth (email@example.com).
Warning: There may be bagpipes.
Nov. 8: WurstFest
German and Texan culture come together at WurstFest! We’ll leave after church on Nov. 8 to eat lunch there and enjoy the fun.
Advance tickets are $6 -- deadline for ordering early is October 18.
Tickets at the gate are $8.
Nov. 28: Decorate the Church for Christmas, then stick around for pizza and a movie.
Time, movie, and pizza toppings TBA.
A World Worth Noting
I personally don’t like World magazine and would not read it if a member didn’t give it to me, but some observations I’ve found there are worth noting.
But first, why I don’t like the magazine. It’s dedicated to teaching children of the world without end how to live, how to think, how to be in this world. Some of the ads, for example “Christian Care Medi-Share, Biblical Healthcare Solutions” seem to me to be Protestant monasticism. You can live in this world without reallydoing so. Moreover, some of their features, for example “The Buzz: Movies & TV, Books, Notable Books, Music, and Notable CDs” all suggest there is a distinctively Christian viewpoint of these things.
This is all very Reformed, and this is as it should be because most of the writers are just that, and though they are by and large very good writers this Lutheran finds them onerous. This ad from the March 14, 2009 issue epitomizes this solid declaration of mine: “Recalibrating the Evangelical Mind with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” This reminds me of moderate talk show host Michael Smerconish tag line for his syndicated radio show “Headlines Redefined.”
However, I write not to blame but to praise. The March 14 issue helped me to stop wringing my hands over possible nationalization of everything from soup to nuts. Joel Belz editorial “Buy them out” had this to say: “[H]ow absurd it is to fret about the possibility of nationalized banks, nationalized auto manufacturers, nationalized health care, nationalized energy producers, nationalized retirement programs, and nationalized radio networks – how absurd it is to worry about all that when we long ago nationalized the educational systems that shape the worldview of 90 percent of all Americans” (4).
He’s absolutely right. That horse bolted the barn in the 1830s. We who’ve suffered the nationalizing of the minds of our children are now going to worry about what they do with our money, cars, health, energy and retirement! Thank you Joel Belz for telling me what to think about this. It’s a view of this world from the World worth noting .
“Pray About It”
2009-2010 Advent/Lent Sermon Series
I tell people all the time, “Pray about it.” That’s not enough instruction. St. Paul says, “We (including him) do not know what we ought to pray for...” (Romans 8:26). The disciples who were so thick in so many ways at least knew they needed to be taught how to pray. In answer our Lord gave them and us The Lord’s Prayer which we will study in the Divine Service on Wednesday evenings during Advent and Lent.
12/02/09 To Whom Should We Pray?
12/09/09 The Most Important Thing to Pray For
12/16/09 A Good Advent Prayer
02/17/10 A Good Lenten Prayer – Ash Wednesday
02/24/10 A Good Daily Prayer
03/03/10 A Daily Prayer Must
03/10/10 A Strange Prayer
03/17/10 A Prayer for a Good Death
03/24/10 The Reason to Say “Amen” Confidently
All services are on a Wednesday; they start at 7:30 PM, and with the exception of Ash Wednesday you can be heading to your car at 8:20. I announce the theme of the sermon series so far in advance, so that I may whet your appetite, and you would make plans to attend.
Volume 25, Number 3
Concordia Journal Doctrine as Pastoral Care
By: Charles P. Arand Over lunch the other day, several of my colleagues and I were discussing some of the so-called contemporary songs that had been used in one of the services at a local Lutheran congregation. In particular, we attempted to evaluate several of the songs in order to identify their doctrinal message. What we discovered (as is also the case in many of the devotional writings current today) was that these songs were not so much riddled with explicitly false doctrine as they were devoid of doctrine altogether. In fact, they were difficult to evaluate precisely because of their lack of doctrine. They bordered on being totally a-theological, in favor of being totally experiential. What doctrine was present was so vague and general that it could have been interpreted favorably by not only any Christian tradition but, I suspect, by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and any number of New Age groups. To be a-theological, to be devoid of doctrine does not mean that there songs were neutral (and hence harmless). In fact, we could (and will) argue that no theology is in fact bad theology.
It seems that in post-modernity what we are reaping is the full fruits of what the enlightenment sowed over two hundred years ago, namely, the separation of theology and experience. To a certain extent, this is even reflected in the seminary’s curriculum as we have divided theology into areas of specialization to be carried out in four different departments: exegetical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and practical theology. The very existence of a separate practical theology department cannot but help give the impression that the other three departments are not practical. It is also evident that in our recent curriculum review process, the church at large rarely ever made suggestions about what the first three departments needed to offer. Instead, we were told that we’re doing a fine job in those areas (read: there areas are not as much needed). What we really need are more practical theology (read skills-oriented) courses which hold the key to a successful pastorate.
So-called contemporary songs thus live comfortably with a separation between the objective historical events of Jesus’ life and the present experiences of the Christian. They focus on Christ’s work primarily as empathizing and sympathizing with the needs of the individual. There is little diagnosis of the human condition and little focus on God’s solution through what Christ has done for me in the past (with its present ramifications).
The separation of doctrine and life can be seen not only in contemporary songs but also in the creation of contemporary “creeds” (I use that term reluctantly for those statements) and even in preaching, where narrative and story telling have come to rule the day, (When was the last time the doctrine of the Trinity, the person of Christ, or ecclesiology was expounded from the pulpit?) Even when people study the Scriptures, it is not so much to uncover the doctrine that they reveal as it is to find in the passages immediate application or prescriptions to situations today. Doctrine has come to be perceived as irrelevant and impractical. Perhaps that is partly our own fault, namely, the fault of those who cherish doctrine, teach doctrine, and devote their lives to studying doctrine. Perhaps we have treated it in too purely of an academic manner, with the result that people have lost sight of the very reason that the church is doctrine in the first place.
In the end, we are facing the danger of losing the important role that doctrine has always played within the Christian church, and with that we are in danger of losing the heart and soul of Christianity. What we desperately need is to rediscover the reasons why the church formulated doctrine in the first place, how the church always regarded doctrine, and the use to which doctrine was put. Doctrine was not abstract theory to be contrasted with practical skills and how-to-steps for daily living. If anything the Reformers (and the church fathers before them) viewed doctrine as pastoral care. This is what made the study of doctrine so important. This is why they were willing to engage (however reluctantly) in doctrinal debates. Doctrine was a matter of life and death. This is what made doctrinal debates so heated. The church believed that false doctrine could actually harm a person. In other words, doctrine had consequences for the well being of people. It had an impact on their spiritual health.
A renewed study of the Confessions on this very point can prove illuminating here, especially, if we pay attention to the adjectives that the Confessions use to describe doctrine. Chemnitz speaks of doctrine as “that divine Word which alone brings salvation” (BC Pref. 5, 13) and refers to it as “salvific” or “wholesome” [heilsame] doctrine. The latter adjective is used not only to describe the purity of doctrine but also to stress the benefit of the doctrine for those who hear it. Notice the way in which Chemnitz uses the same terms in relative clauses, for example “the doctrine, which is salutary…” You will find that they treat doctrine as anything but abstract and irrelevant. Chemnitz and the FC also strongly emphasize the dynamic character of doctrine. As it expresses the cognitive content of God’s self-disclosure, doctrine brings us into contact with the very essence and will of God Himself. On the basis of 1 John 2, Chemnitz further identifies doctrine as the meeting place of God and man. Whoever does not remain in the doctrine of Christ has neither the Father (and without doubt also no salvation) nor the Holy Spirit who speaks of nothing but Christ (Corpus Doctrinae Prutenicum). The content of the Gospel deals with Jesus Christ-His incarnation, His life, His Death, His resurrection, and the meaning of those events which resulted in the promise of reconciliation and grace. Doctrine reveals that we have eternal life in Christ and through faith in His name (Corpus Doctrinae Prutenicum, 3). Thus the Confessions treat such words like “confession” and “doctrine” as verbal nouns. They are active and dynamic in a person’s life.
It is helpful to expand the scope beyond the Lutheran Confessions to a study of the entire Christian tradition in order to see how the theologians of the church unanimously regarded doctrine as pastoral care. (See for example, the way in which theologians of the church make use of purpose clauses in Ellen T. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine. My thanks to Bill Weinrich for making me aware of this book.) Regarding doctrine as pastoral care should be natural for Lutherans with their emphasis on the “pro me” character of the Gospel. The singular document for Lutherans that exemplifies Charry’s thesis, and which ought to provide a model for seeing doctrine as pastoral care and for seeing the seamless integration of doctrine and life, is Luther’s Small Catechism and Luther’s other catechetical writings. For example, in his Torgau sermon (1533) on the Second Article of the Creed, Luther states that “with the phrase, our Lord, we confess that everything that this man is and does has occurred for us. In other words, Jesus was born, suffered, died, and was raised from the dead for this purpose: that he may be our Lord.” In other words, He became man in order to be my Lord, He lived and died in order to be my Lord, and He rose from the dead in order to be my Lord.
In brief, doctrine functions as pastoral care for a number of reasons. It provides the Christian with a diagnosis of the innermost needs of human beings. It provides a framework for interpreting life and the experiences of life in the light of God’s triune work. Doctrine provides a foundation for faith and life in order to make sense of a world that often seems confusing and meaningless. Most importantly, it brings God and God’s gifts into our very lives.
The Summer 2009 issue of Higher Things has an article entitled “What’s With the Collar?” It makes some fine points favoring the wearing of a clerical collar which I do six days a week, but I am being pushed towards wearing a shirt and tie or perhaps even a black polo shirt with a cross or fish emblem on it. And it’s the laity who is pushing me. Let me explain how.
It begins with something the article says. “There is, however, a significant amount of symbolism behind the use of vestments and especially a clerical collar.” I would say there is significant amount of symbolism that can be made from them but it’s not “behind” their use. Rev. Roger Pittelko, the former president of the LCMS’s English District, who went by “bishop” before bishop was even cool among us, wrote a short piece in the April 2004 Concordia Theological Quarterly titled “Clerical Collar – To Wear or Not to Wear?”
He writes in part, “What we call liturgical vestments were, in fact, originally ordinary clothing worn by all. The alb, cincture, and chasuble were regular dress in the Roman world. But styles changed. When the barbarians invaded the Roman empire, they brought a new form of dress, trousers and a shirt. As the new styles were adopted, the clergy retained the old clothing. The old clothing was not understood to be liturgical vesture for use in the services of the church. The old clothing, now considered vestments, was given new symbolic meaning. This process of the clergy keeping the old style has gone on ever since. The cassock, a common walking coat used by all gentlemen in the Middle Ages, was retained by the clergy when it was shortened to form a suit coat….From the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, gentlemen wore elaborate collars. Often they were of lace or something that took the appearance of a primitive ascot tie. To keep the collar from being soiled, a band of linen was worn around the neck. In time, styles changed. The collars disappeared, but clergy retained the band of linen around the neck. The band of linen used to keep the collar from being soiled is the clerical collar of today” (p. 154). (For more in-depth information on the origins of vestments in ordinary clothing see Church Vestments Their Origin & Development, Herbert Norris.)
Here’s the sentence from Pittelko that makes my case. “With our culture adopting more and more casual clothing, it is possible that the new clerical uniform will be a shirt and tie” (p. 154). The more people come to church in jeans, shorts, sandals, etc. the more pastors will be encouraged to adopt what was once considered proper attire for church: a coat and tie. The robes could be lost too following this rubric although historically society has always robed what they honored most clergymen, women, and judges.
Since the Supreme Court is much in the news of late, did you know they have rules for the attire of lawyers and journalists? “The rules are strictly interpreted and strictly executed. And then some…..’The dress code is part of the court’s desire to maintain the atmosphere that one might expect in the nation’s highest court,’ said Kathy Arberg, the court’s public information officer” (Joan Biskupic, The Washington Post, “In this court, one must dress with respect for the justices,” in Austin American Statesman, 12-18-99, p. 4).
Obviously James 2 comes into play and his warning against being prejudiced against “a poor man in shabby clothing,” though the setting there is probably the court and not the church. How people dress for church can’t be a matter of the law. People are to dress for church as they do for everything else according to their evaluation of the occasion they are attending. We have all gone someplace under or overdressed. If a man showed up in church in a tuxedo or a woman in an evening gown, he or she would be overdressed, but everyone would know just how highly they evaluated the Divine Service, wouldn’t they? Wait a minute that is how most people dress for their marriage and the marriage supper that follows, hmm.
As for us pastors, since we have historically taken our cues from how our people dress, as you go we go. That means when you make the move to T-shirts and shorts I get to wear a polo. For now, I’m thinking of trying a shirt and tie. I miss ties. They offer such a wide variety of color choices. So many ways to express myself. Then again why don’t I make the move to colored clericals? Whatever I wear I’m confessing something.
DEBATING SCIENCE AND RELIGION Below are letters sent to the editior of Chemical and Energineering News. I’m reprinting them so you can see that the debate about evolution is far from over even in the scientific community.
I WAS DISAPPOINTED, but not surprised, to see the article about ACS's supporting more vigorous teaching of evolution (C&EN, March 23, page 48). Opposing intelligent design because it is not a testable hypothesis misses an important point: Science is an organized search for truth in the natural world. It is not an end in itself; truth is the legitimate end. If science shows us that truth in some area lies off the edge of science, we need to go there.
We should be familiar with a thumbnail sketch of the evidence for intelligent design; that is, you need exponents in your exponents to describe the improbabilities involved in assembling biomolecules, that they are broken down as fast as they are made in any natural environment outside a cell, that an agent outside the system is needed to bring our world to its current state of Gibbs free energy, that Nobel Prizes are awarded for elucidating tiny details while denying intelligence was required for the whole.
I once checked out Darwin's original "On the Origin of Species." In the first few pages, I learned that there is a greater genetic variation in domestic ducks than in wild ducks. Next, I learned that the genetic differences were possibly due to the difference in environment between English farmyards and German farmyards. Then, I learned that dogs instinctively mate only within their own breed. From this start, science has never looked back.
It is time we chemists stopped uncritically assuming evolution, and consider what we really know. From there, search for truth.
Janesville, Wis. I AM DEEPLY DISTURBED that there is no discussion about an appropriate medium for any debate on the observations and theories of evolution. There should not be any theory too precious to science that open discussion of its observations and conclusions is suppressed. Science has no business preaching to anyone of any belief that their ideas and opinions do not count because they are not seen as facts.
Science is built upon data, which are explained through theories. For example, we have the theory of gravity and the theory of relativity. These are accepted to be accurate because we do not have data that would say otherwise. I remind the reader that, historically, scientists believed Earth was the center of the universe and even that Earth was flat. These theories were proved incomplete and corrected to a more accurate understanding.
Science itself evolves overtime, improving as a powerful tool to grasp our universe. Science should not be legislated but continually presented, questioned, and refined. Are the observations or the conclusions really at the heart of the matter of either side? I believe that science needs to rethink whether there is any debate about evolution. If there is "no debate in science on evolution" as Baum states, why then am I writing this letter?
SanDiego I AM A CHEMIST by formal training with extensive experience in chemical engineering and consider myself part of the scientifically literate workforce. I also am a Christian who believes in creation, and I do not find these two positions incompatible.
Everything I see in my daily scientific observations points to what some call an intelligent designer, one whom I call God. Over my more than 40 years of trained observations, I am increasingly in wonder about how intricately and wonderfully we and the world around us have been made. The scientific training I received in grad school and in industry opened my eyes and mind to the incredible design all around us just waiting to be discovered by us!
To me, every new scientific discovery confirms and reaffirms the existence of the designer, not another development with an evolutionary trail. Our scientific discovery techniques are evolving. I have no problems with evolution theory being taught as a part of science curricula, but let's keep the door open to teaching the alternatives. There are still too many missing links in Darwin's theory, and I was taught that scientists had open minds.
I’d Rather Spend 90 Minutes in The Shack
Several weeks ago I warned of looking for truth in all the wrong places such as the novel The Shack. Well I’d rather spend 90 minutes in The Shack than one minute in 90 Minutes in Heaven.
Don Piper is a Baptist pastor who had a tragic auto accident in 1989. Ninety minutes after being pronounced dead by paramedics he came back to life. He “arose” with only blissful memories of his stay in heaven. Unlike St. Paul what he saw wasn’t too wonderful to relate to us. Unlike The Shack he doesn’t present it as fiction but reality. Unlike the Holy Spirit who didn’t see fit to record what the widow of Nain’s son actually said immediately after Jesus raised him, Piper believes what he has to say is worthy of record. Too bad Lazarus who was raised after being 4 days dead didn’t write something down. It probably would have sold more than the 1.4 million copies Piper’s book has.
And what of it? It’s a free country. As a pastor I’ve heard many “after death” experiences. I never say people didn’t hear or see what they say they did. I only say that their experience can’t be the foundation of their faith. I’ve noticed that those who do make it their faith’s foundation aren’t faithful in hearing the Word or using the Sacraments.
I don’t know about the Rev. Don Piper. He could very well still be a faithful Baptist minister. And why not? It’s not out of keeping with Baptist theology to expect and accept revelation apart from the Means of Grace. It’s supposed to be different with us Lutherans. We say in the Smalcald Articles, “Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments” (III, VIII, 9-11).
Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Austin, Texas subscribes to this confession. Here is the announcement from their website about the Rev. Don Piper coming to their congregation:
Is Heaven Real?
Don Piper, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven, answers this question from experience. A semitruck crushed Piper’s car, and medical personnel said he died instantly.
Piper says he stood at the gates of heaven immediately upon impact with the truck. While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music.
Piper miraculously returned to life on earth 90 minutes after the wreck. He remembers inexpressible heavenly bliss. Piper experienced a huge test of faith in God as he faced an uncertain and grueling recovery that included 34 surgeries.
Come hear Don Piper at Redeemer on Wednesday, September 9. Contact Mike Naleieha at xxx-xxx extension 8836. Invite family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others to hear this amazing testimony!
Here’s the latest email announcement:
6:15 p.m. – Pre-service slides begin
6:30 p.m. – Pre-service music begins, childcare opens
7 p.m. – Announcements and introduction made
7:10 p.m. –[Rev.] Don Piper speaks
8 p.m. – Reception and book signing begins
Thirty years ago I read Beyond Death’s Door a book by a cardiologist who had brought back many “dead” people and questioned them afterwards. He reported that about 20 percent were willing to report they had experiences. What was unique about his book at the time is that it contained the experiences of those who went to hell. But at the end of the day good or bad they are just that “experiences.” And experience tells me that those who find comfort in the experience of others inevitably experience something themselves that does away with it. A trip back to The Shack will show this.
A local radio personality returned from his vacation saying The Shack had changed his life by giving him a new, better perspective. That was about 6 weeks ago. Later he reported the experience of watching the movie AI had “bummed him out. Because maybe this is all there is.” A caller reminded him what he said about The Shack. He said, “I guess AI destroyed all that.” I’m quite sure 90 minutes with the Rev. Piper’s experiences can turn him back around. But if you’re a confessional Lutheran, the one thing you believe those experiences can’t do is bring him the Holy Spirit. And Only He can really deliver us from the death that stalks us; He does it in a Divine Service that only lasts about 60 minutes.
Lutheran conservatives reeling over defeat
Another vote OKs Methodist communion By Julia Duin (Contact) | Friday, August 21, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS | Conservatives at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's churchwide assembly here were still reeling Thursday from losing -- by one vote -- their battle to defeat a new social statement that gives validity to same-sex relationships.
As they strategized, other Lutherans attending the denomination's biennial meeting overwhelmingly voted 958-51 Thursday to enter into full communion with the 7.9-million-member United Methodist Church, joining the forces of two of America's largest mainline Protestant denominations.
That ecumenical triumph did not comfort the Rev. Paull Spring, chairman of the group Lutheran Coalition for Reform (CORE), who called the results of Wednesday's social statement vote "distressing, anguishing and appalling."
"We were hoping we'd carry the day," he said. "There's no real consensus in this church. It's a shock the church would make a decision like this on the basis of one vote."
Wednesday's vote of 676 "yes" votes to 338 "no" votes was the exact total needed to pass a new social statement that redefines the denomination's position on some sexual issues including homosexuality. Thirty-one other registered members did not vote, some of whom apparently left for dinner, thinking the key vote would be delayed until Thursday.
"It was very distressing, disappointing and discouraging," said Ryan Schwarz, a member of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va. "The social statement was so devoid of Lutheran theology and the teaching of Scripture.
"The church is called to be faithful to Scripture even when it's achingly hard. We have people in CORE who are gay. We wish for their sake the church could change its teaching on this matter but God hasn't given us this authority."
Phil Soucy, a spokesman for the gay caucus Lutherans Concerned, said it was quite a feat to get as many as two-thirds of the Lutheran body to approve the statement. "They pushed to make it a two-thirds vote," he said of conservatives, "and now they're complaining it only passed by one vote. This was so much more difficult to get than a simple majority. We have a consensus of a two-thirds vote."
Conservatives admitted Thursday things are looking bleak for an upcoming battle Friday to defeat a series of proposals leading toward the acceptance of openly gay clergy. Their chief battle will lie in persuading like-minded churches not to bolt the denomination.
"Our hope and prayer is those ELCA congregations who uphold the authority of God's Word over all matters of faith and life won't do anything rash," said Mark Chavez, executive director of CORE, "but to work together to do the things the ELCA should be doing in terms of ecumenical relationships and becoming a multicultural church."
They are asking concerned Lutherans to attend CORE's annual meeting Sept. 25-26 at Christ the Savior Lutheran Church in Fishers, Ind., to discern what to do next.
The 4.7-million-member ELCA was more united in its vote on the Methodists. Lutherans and Methodists started a formal dialogue in 1977, then have hammered out agreements on baptism, Holy Communion, missions, bishops and other theological tenets. In 2005, the ELCA approved - along with the United Methodist Bishops Council - an interim Eucharist sharing between the two churches. In April 2008, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted for full communion with the ELCA by an 864-19 vote.
United Methodist Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, told the assembly they were doing a "deeply evangelistic work." He continued, "I am grateful we have come to this point. It will be a great day should you vote to choose this full communion."
Numerous ELCA bishops lined up at the microphones to urge voting members to approve the full communion agreement. After the lopsided vote, Presiding ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson said, "We rejoice in what the Spirit has in store for us."
The United Methodist Church is the largest and the sixth Christian body (after the Moravians, Episcopalians, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA) with which the ELCA has established full communion. Full communion means the churches will work for visible unity in Jesus Christ, recognize each other's ministries, work together on ministry initiatives, and sometimes allow the interchangeability of ordained clergy.
Copyright 2009 The Washington Times, LLC
The Angels Are Aware…and We Are Too
Paul R. Harris First Published in Logia
Vol. IV, Epiphany/ January 1995, pp.21-29
(continuing from August/
WHY ADORATION IS NEEDED NOW
The adoration of Christ in the Sacrament has a long history. In the beginning of the Reformation, the practice was not emphasized because of Roman abuses. Over against the Zwinglians, however, and later the Sacramentarians, the practice is defended and even suggested. In our day, I believe the practice of adoration should be restored now for four reasons: (1) To confess against the Sacramentarians inside and outside of Lutheranism, (2) to help in resolving our ongoing debate about fellowship, (3) to emphasize the physical beneﬁts of the Lord’s Supper, and (4) to honor the Lord Jesus Christ rightly.
To Confess Against the Sacramentarians Inside and Outside of Lutheranism
The error of the Sacramentarians, the real absence of Christ from the Holy Communion, is an ever-present error. The Formula of Concord says that what distinguished a Sacramentarian is that he uses the same words but believes the true and essential body and blood of Christ are absent from the consecrated bread and wine as far as heaven is above the earth (SD VII, 2).
It is very easy to spiritualize the Lord’s Supper, to believe that while we are receiving the Lord’s Supper our spirits should ascend to heaven and there bow before Christ. But when we bow in body here, we confess that Christ is present right before our eyes on the very altar. Chemnitz says that outward veneration is a confession of “what food we believe we receive there. With such external confession we separate ourselves from the Sacramentarians and from the Epicurean despisers of these mysteries.”47
There is a real need today to confess boldly and clearly against “Sacramentarians and Epicurean despisers” of the Sacrament. Sasse observed in 1959 that the disease of crypto-Calvinism (i.e., hidden Calvinism; Calvinists are also Sacramentarians) is chronic in the Lutheran church.48 The Sacramentarian position is so palatable to human reason in its assertion that Christ is only spiritually present, only present according to his divine nature. It is the position towards which all people, in accordance with their fallen human reason, will naturally gravitate. Furthermore, the true doctrine is so unpalatable to natural man. Charles Porterﬁeld Krauth observed in 1871: “The offense of the Master’s cross now rests upon his Table.”49 Luther said, “This is the very devil; he can never quit abusing the blood of Christ” (AE 35:197). The early church had to defend herself against the charge of cannibalism. The Reformers had to prove they were not talking about a Capernaitic eating of the body and blood of Christ. And I have heard Baptist army chaplains deride Catholic chaplains as “blood drinkers.”
The devil, the world, and our own ﬂesh make us want to give up the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament. By bowing or kneeling before the consecrated elements, by elevating them, we confess that we are not Sacramentarians, that we believe contrary to what our eyes tell us that the real Christ is present before us with those visible elements. We are confessing that we reject the common error of both the Reformed and Rome that the ﬁnite is not capable of the inﬁnite. In Jesus’ words “This is my body,” Rome refused to take the word “this” literally, and the Reformed refused to take the word “body” literally.50 By adoring our Lord Jesus Christ, while admitting that bread and wine are still visibly present, we are confessing that most sacred scriptural truth, the ﬁnite is capable of the inﬁnite!
Only a Sacramentarian would refuse to bow before the consecrated elements. That is what Martin Chemnitz said: “No one, therefore, denies that Christ, God and man, truly and substantially present in His divine and human nature in the action of the Lord’s Supper, should be worshiped in spirit and in truth, except who, with the Sacramentarians, either denies or harbors doubt concerning the presence of Christ in the Supper.”51
Crypto-Sacramentarians are not going to be smoked out into the open unless we adopt practices that expose their error.
According to Luther in his Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, a Sacramentarian would say, “Christ is not with us in a certain form, therefore he is not with us at all” (AE 37:196). How is this any different from saying that Christ is not present in a certain form, therefore I will not adore him? Such seems to be the modern Sacramentarian position.
Crypto-Sacramentarians are not going to be smoked out into the open unless we adopt practices that expose their error. Also, with a large segment of Lutheranism pursuing full communion with the Sacramentarians, we need to testify to the Reformed how we differ from them. The elevation and accompanying adoration will testify to one and all that the celebrant and the congregation believe in the real presence of Christ. Luther wrote his Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544) in response to rumors that the elevation had been dropped at Wittenberg because of a new understanding of the Sacrament and because an agreement between Lutherans and Zwinglians had been reached (AE 38:283). If dropping the elevation was taken as a sign of agreement, what would its restoration today be but a sign of our disagreement with the Zwinglians inside and outside of Lutheranism?
The Sacramentarian position is on the move from another front too. Those enamored with church growth theology have been downplaying the sacraments for years. Their way of worship particularly draws attention away from the real presence, away from Christ.
If Pope Celestine I (422–432) was right in saying that each dogma of the church actually occurs in the liturgy before it is deﬁned,52 it is but a short time before church-growth Lutherans plainly deny the real presence. Some church-growth pastors are preaching mini-sermons as the faithful come forward to commune; mood music is played during the distribution; families are brought forward to hold hands at the Communion rail. Like the Sacramentarians of old, they are focusing everything on the action rather than on the simple, real presence of the body and blood of Christ. The Sacramentarians liked to talk of action rather than presence, processes rather than things, effects rather that being.53 Adoration, on the other hand, emphasizes the objective reality of the body and blood of Christ. It adores Christ, his body given for us, his blood shed for us. Adoration focuses on Christ as the reason we are gathered together.
Restoring the adoration would also establish a beachhead of sorts against the onslaught of Calvinism from the Church Growth Movement. In The Controversy Concerning Predestination C. F. W. Walther relates a story about a Lutheran duchess. She was attending a service conducted by the court chaplain. He was apologetic because he knew some could criticize it for being “popery.” The duchess responded that she remembered what Luther had told her father and for that reason did not want him to discontinue the ceremonies. It was her hope that “So long as such ceremonies continued, Calvinistic temerity would be held back from the public ofﬁce of the church.”54
Trinity Lutheran Church
1207 West 45th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
Trinity Te Deum is published bi-monthly.Deadline for all articles is the 15th of the odd months. All Articles must be approved by Rev. Paul R. Harris. Articles with no author are written by him.
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TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH – 1207 WEST 45TH STREET – AUSTIN, TX 78756
REV. PAUL R. HARRIS, PASTOR – 512-453-3835 CHURCH 512-251-4204 HOME
SUNDAY SCHOOL AND BIBLE STUDY 9:15 AM – DIVINE SERVICE 10:30 AM November 2009
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TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH – 1207 WEST 45TH STREET – AUSTIN, TX 78756
REV. PAUL R. HARRIS, PASTOR – 512-453-3835 CHURCH 512-251-4204 HOME
SUNDAY SCHOOL AND BIBLE STUDY 9:15 AM – DIVINE SERVICE 10:30 AM